Essays

When Soundtracks Don’t Properly Represent Their Movies

Thanks to the new Suicide Squad trailer, we’re reminded that sometimes soundtracks honorably represent their movies (Wayne’s World) and sometimes they don’t (Everybody Wants Some!!).
By  · Published on April 12th, 2016

The latest trailer for Suicide Squad has resurrected memories of an unlikely influence: Wayne’s World. The upcoming DC super villain movie has now been marketed with two songs from the 1992 comedy’s soundtrack. Sort of. The first trailer features Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody,” which still owes a lot of its current popularity to the lip-synched rendition featured in the Saturday Night Live spinoff. The new Suicide Squad trailer (see it visually broken down here) is partly scored with Sweet’s “The Ballroom Blitz,” which is covered (as just “Ballroom Blitz”) in Wayne’s World by Tia Carrere, as performed by her character.

I owned a copy of the soundtrack on cassette, and I listened to it a lot back then. Now Suicide Squad is making me revisit the album (I don’t know where the tape is nor do I have a tape player, but it’s on Spotify). I have a nostalgic fondness for that Carrere cover plus another song she sings and the inclusion of an extended version of Mike Myers and Dana Carvey performing the Wayne’s World theme song. These tracks more than any of the rest really evoke the experience of watching the movie. Other songs, particularly “Bohemian Rhapsody” and “Dream Weaver,” still vividly remind me of the scenes they appear in — and this is a movie I haven’t watched in 20 years — but the rest have that exclusive association.

Wayne’s World: Music From The Motion Picture

The soundtrack to the smash-hit Wayne’s World with Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” and Jimi Hendrix’s “Foxy Lady” among the hard-rock tracks.

Because of those cast-performed songs, though, the soundtrack isn’t easily appreciated as just a collection of songs that happen to be featured in an old comedy film. There’s a big difference between soundtracks like that of Wayne’s World that truly represent their movies and soundtracks that are merely a mixtape. The latter includes the soundtrack for Richard Linklater’s Everybody Wants Some!!, and I’m very disappointed in the way Paramount Pictures and Warner Bros. Records have gone with the album (its being released on cassette is cool, at least). It just doesn’t represent or honor the film at all.

It’s one thing for the Everybody Wants Some!! soundtrack to be missing Pink Floyd’s “Fearless,” which is probably the most prominently featured and most significant diegetic tune in the movie (or second most, after “Rappers Delight”). Its exclusion is likely due to a rights issue. But where is the original post-credits rap song “Cherokee ChaChow,” performed by the movie’s ensemble of actors in character? Where are the in-film covers of the Gilligan’s Island theme song and the Austin punk classic “Frat Cars,” both of which are performed by The Riverboat Gamblers as the on screen punk band?

Music From The Motion Picture Everybody Wants Some!!

The official soundtrack curated by the film’s director Richard Linklater, featuring classic songs from Van Halen, The Cars, The Knack, and many more. Quote from Linklater: “The Everybody Wants Some soundtrack tries to capture the amazing diversity of what was on the table musically at that time. …

Linklater’s latest isn’t just another mixtape musical like its spiritual predecessor, Dazed and Confused, or American Graffiti before it. It’s much closer to being an actual musical. Aside from having that final moment where the characters rap about themselves, it also moves its story through four nights and four music-heavy subculture scenes — in a disco club, a country-western bar, a punk show and a party for an artsy crowd — and a proper soundtrack for the movie would include the songs that carry us through that journey again, in audio form. As ill-fit as it may be for its mixtape listenability, the album should even include the movie’s Urban Cowboy-era version of “Cotton-Eyed Joe.”

Here’s a quote from Linklater about the movie’s soundtrack that might describe his curation of tunes in the movie but not of the selection appearing on the album:

The Everybody Wants Some!! soundtrack tries to capture the amazing diversity of what was on the table musically at that time. So many artists were at the top of their game, and it seemed like a lot of popular genres were viable. Metal and R&B were as big as ever, disco was still hanging in there (although it would be “dead” within a year or so), and, thanks to the movie Urban Cowboy, country was suddenly cool in places it hadn’t been before. Even more exciting was the immediacy of punk and new wave, and the first examples of this thing you’d eventually know as hip-hop. Over the years some of this has been parodied and made to look ridiculous, but this movie is asking you to experience it as if for the first time – from those opening drum beats of “My Sharona” to the utter newness of “Rapper’s Delight.”

Listenability is key. Warner Bros. wants to sell albums, some of which could be bought by people who haven’t seen the movie but might like this collection of tunes (which you could put together yourself via Spotify, as The Film Stage’s Jordan Rauch did, but whatever). Tracks like “Cherokee ChaChow” and Carrere’s version of “Ballroom Blitz” aren’t as appealing to that larger audience. And even those of us who appreciate the songs after having just seen and enjoyed their movies, we will probably appreciate them less as time goes on. Just as we grew out of “Ninja Rap” and “Addams Family Groove” or eventually just always skipped Patrick Swayze’s “She’s Like the Wind” because it doesn’t suit the 1960s setting or the otherwise era-appropriate Dirty Dancing music on its album.

Dirty Dancing: Original Soundtrack From The Vestron Motion Picture

Got some great memories from the film? So do a lot of folks, that’s why this soundtrack is one of the most popular and loved.

Soundtracks, for the most part, have always felt kind of disposable. Even for a lot of the movies that we continue to watch over and over, there are a very limited number of soundtrack albums we consider classics or personal favorites. Some of those that I find to last are the ones that have interesting covers of classic tunes, especially if it’s a diegetic thing, as is the case with Velvet Goldmine. It’s like having an “original cast recording” album. Just as you’d want one of those for the version of Jersey Boys you saw on stage, in addition to or in lieu of the “real” versions of the songs sung by The Four Seasons, you might like to have an album of Johnny Cash tunes sung by Joaquin Phoenix as heard in Walk the Line.

NEXT: CLASSIC SOUNDTRACKS ARE A TRAILER’S GREATEST WEAPON

At the very least, the Everybody Wants Some!! soundtrack could have featured “Cherokee ChaChow” as a secret track, similar to the uncredited inclusion of “The Touch” on the Boogie Nights soundtrack (confession: I have not played the actual physical Everybody Wants Some!! album so can’t confirm they didn’t do that, but I’m sure I would be able to find acknowledgement of it somewhere online). But now we can still hope for a second soundtrack album, like we got with Dazed and Confused and Boogie Nights, and that it will feature the blind spots left off the first. I don’t know if everybody wants that, but I doubt I’m the only one who does.

Boogie Nights: Music From The Original Motion Picture

‘Boogie Nights’ released in 1997 Boogie Nights weaved great songs from the disco and soft-rock Seventies and the MTV early Eighties into a mix tape that flowed just as seamlessly as the film’s sumptuous tracking shots. Tracks like Walter Egan’s “Magnet and Steel” and the Commodores’ “Machine Gun”…

Christopher Campbell began writing film criticism and covering film festivals for a zine called Read, back when a zine could actually get you Sundance press credentials. He's now a Senior Editor at FSR and the founding editor of our sister site Nonfics. He also regularly contributes to Fandango and Rotten Tomatoes and is the President of the Critics Choice Association's Documentary Branch.